Posts Tagged ‘migration’

Fast to Lucene Solr: Choosing a Document Processing Pipeline for Solr

by Karen Lynn

One of the most powerful features of FAST ESP is its flexible document processing engine. The engine that ships with FAST ESP supports multiple document processing pipelines that comprise of multiple document processing stages. A document processing stage performs a document processing task and can add, modify or remove elements from a document before it is passed to the next stage in the pipeline. A simple example of processing stage would be one that processes a document’s URL element, ESP ships with many processing stages and several processing pipelines out of the box for handling both structured and unstructured documents. FAST ESP document processing engine also provides a Python plugin API to allow customers to create custom processing stages of their own, which is a feature we use heavily for our customer ESP installations.

Unfortunately, Solr does not offer the same robust support for document processing pipelines that ESP does. The ESP processing pipeline is document-centric while the Lucene Solr platform is field-centric. When a document is fed to ESP for processing, it is routed to processing stages in a processing pipeline that can access document elements generated by previous processing stages. This allows for complex and optimal operations that can leverage previous processing, such as reuse of a previously generated HTML DOM tree structures. When a document is passed to a Solr update handler, the document is broken up into a set of individual fields. Each field can have a set of processors known as Solr Analysis Filter that can be chained together for field processing before indexing occurs. While this is fine for content that has been heavily processed before being sent to Solr, individual filters lack the same level of access to other documents elements to easily support more complex processing behaviors.

Another difference between ESP and Solr platforms is that ESP’s document processing architecture allows it to be scaled independently from its indexing architecture. ESP’s document processing architecture is fully decoupled from its indexing architecture and is designed out-of-the-box to take advantage of multiple processor cores per machine and multiple document processor machines per cluster. Solr’s out-of-the-box document processing architecture is tightly coupled with its indexing architecture, making it difficult to independently scale Solr’s content processing capacity without adding the complexity and overhead of additional Solr services and Lucene indexes. When we work with multiple terabyte document sets, we find content processing tends to be the biggest bottleneck, so being able to scale content processing ability separately from indexing is mission critical.

If we want to leverage the power that Solr offers, but we need support for a more robust document processing framework, what are our options? There are quite a number of content processing frameworks we can chose from that we discovered during the course of our research. Some of the options currently available include, but are not limited to OpenPipeline OpenPipe, Pypes, UIMA, SMILA , Apache Commons Pipeline, Piped, Behemoth, and Cascading.

Most of these frameworks are written in Java which gives them access to an incredibly broad and diverse spectrum of Java libraries. Since Solr and Lucene are also written in Java, it might make a lot of sense to favor a Java processing framework from scratch, especially if you are more comfortable with Java as a programming language.

Since our clients tend to have highly customized document processing pipelines with many custom FAST ESP Python processing stages, we are heavily biased towards choosing a framework that minimizes the amount of code that would need to be migrated. Many of the available processing frameworks are written in Java, which would be fine if you prefer using Java and don’t have a large amount of currently working Python code to migrate. For our use cases, the decision of which framework to chose was incredibly simple given the option, so we chose Pypes for our migration solution.

For a full report on how we use Pypes for a Document Processing Engine including sample code, sign up for our free FAST to Lucene Solr White Paper here.

For Many Companies, Migration to a New Search Engine is Inevitable

by Karen Lynn

HADLEY, MA– March 12, 2012

In the world of Enterprise Search, everything is changing.  Companies who have been using Microsoft’s internal search engine, FAST Enterprise Search Platform, will be forced to make a change as Microsoft discontinues support for the search platform for companies using Linux as their operating system.  Anticipating the need for a solution, local technology consultants TNR Global is pleased to announce the release of a White Paper for migrating off FAST ESP to a new search engine, Solr.  The paper is titled Bridging the Gap: A Migration Path from Fast ESP to Apache Solr.

This effort began last October when TNR Global presented on the subject of migration from FAST to Solr at the open source conference, Apache Lucene Eurocon in Barcelona, Spain. The paper contains a case study with architecture overview, loading millions of documents into Solr indexes, evaluation and recommendation of tools to bridge the feature gap, migrating custom pipeline code, and the vastly improved ROI after implementation.  “It’s basically a road map for companies looking at options for migration, and we outline Solr as a very good option” said Karen E. Lynn, Director of Business Development.

“We have spent over 9 years working with the FAST ESP product and we understand the nuances of what customers have come to expect from the technology. We’ve identified Solr as a top choice for migrating off FAST as support for the product drops off” said Michael McIntosh, VP of Search Technologies and lead author of the paper. “Solr is an open source technology that has matured and is certainly stable enough for commercial use” said Chris Miles, Senior Software Engineer and contributor to the paper. “We’re excited about this migration option for our customers, and we believe over the long run, it will save them a lot of money and give them greater control over their search engine.”

This heavily anticipated paper will assist companies and organizations in planning their own FAST ESP to Apache Solr migrations and alert them to tools and techniques that can help them achieve a relatively painless process.  Several large blue chip companies have expressed interest in the paper.  “We’ve had a healthy response to the paper” said Lynn.

Internal search engines differ from public search engines like Google or Bing, in that an internal search engine only searches for content inside the company’s firewall.  Google cannot access internal content, therefore companies use search technology to make their content ‘findable.’ “Companies want to keep internal information safe and private.  But they still need to find it” explained Lynn.  “That’s why they need search technology integrated into their organization’s system.”

For more information on search engines, product search, web portals and search engine migration, visit TNR’s main website.  To receive a free copy of the white paper, click here.

TNR Global www.tnrglobal.com, is a systems design and integration company focused on enterprise search and cloud computing solutions for publishing companies, news sites, web directories, academia, enterprise, and SaaS companies. TNR’s past clients include the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Mass Art & Culture, InterNano, Innovara, and the Allegis Group. TNR Global is located at 245 Russell Street, Suite 10 in Hadley, Massachusetts. TNR Global serves clients throughout New England, nationally, and world-wide. Its offices are in Hadley and Greenfield, Massachusetts.

FAST ESP to Lucene Solr Presentation: Open Call for Questions

by Karen Lynn

TNR Global is excited to be participating in the Apache Lucene EuroCon conference in Barcelona.  Our own Michael McIntosh is scheduled to present:  “Enterprise Search: FAST ESP to Lucene Solr” Here is your chance to pre-load the discussion. Before Michael puts the final touches on his talk, he wants to know what issues or questions you may be have.  In the following video, he touches on some of the highlights of his upcoming talk, and asks for your input.

Enterprise Search: FAST ESP to Lucene Solr pre-conferece video - Click to Watch

Enterprise Search: FAST ESP to Lucene Solr pre-conf video

To participate in advance, send you questions or comments to:  fast2solr@tnrglobal.com.  While Michael cannot promise he will include your question or commentary in his actual talk, he will work to address them in an upcoming White Paper, to be released after the conference in November 2011. We look forward to hearing from you!

Open Source Search: Isn’t It Expensive?

by Karen Lynn

You’ve heard the debate on open source search vs. proprietary search. One question that constantly comes up for prospective clients is “What’s all this going to cost me?”

In these times, it’s a good question. Because proprietary has neatly packaged, practically shrink wrapped plans, it’s much easier to discern how much you will spend on a solution. But how much will it cost? That’s an entirely different question.

I see you cocking your head sideways.

Proprietary search has hidden costs. What if the software doesn’t perform the way you need it to? Does the software understand the nuances of your business? How adaptable is it? How much will it cost to adapt that software to get it to perform the way my business needs it to? Questions like this need to be asked, and answered. Eventually you will ask yourself….why am I paying for all of this? And your developer will ask, “why can’t I access the source code?”

What I’m getting at is this: It is a reassuring feeling for a customer to see what a package costs, to understand what services you will get with a solution, and to anticipate what the licensing fee will cost on an annual basis. If it’s your job to research a solution and present findings to your executive team to make a decision, then proprietary search, on the surface, seems a more secure choice. But rarely, if ever, are these solutions a perfect fit for the customer. It’s like buying a Ferrari, with all the brand recognition and polish a Ferrari offers, and not ever driving it past second gear, or cutting the wheel more than 15 degrees, or getting a chance to have your trusted mechanic look under the hood. This is why open source is such a good solution for businesses who want their IT to move quickly.

We’re hearing more buzz about companies waking up to the agility of an open source solution. Most recently, with the acquisition of Autonomy by HP, the industry is telling stories of ex Autonomy customers migrating to Solr (open source search) with only the annual licencing budget to finance the migration. Without an annual expenditure of cash for licensing, and the freedom of not being under a licensing agreement, companies quickly recoup the initial expenditure of a migration.

What kind of car does your company drive?

If you are examining the different choices for implementing search technology in your organization, contact us.  We’re happy to talk to you about the best solution for your business.


Migration Still Looms Large on the Horizon for FAST ESP Customers

by Karen Lynn

Microsoft acquired FAST all the way back in 2008 and then in early 2010 disclosed it’s plans to stop updating the FAST product on a Linux operating system after 2010, making FAST ESP 5.3 the latest and greatest, and very last update Linux users will see involving any improvements to the proprietary search platform. It was clear to anyone on Linux that a migration would need to occur, and as content grows, depending upon the size of your organization, that migration should probably happen sooner than later.

Buzz about migration ensued–an inevitable certainty for many companies, especially ones with huge amounts of data. But how many companies have jumped in with both feet? I had the opportunity to speak with an open source search engine expert who, along with the industry, believed that the move from Microsoft was a windfall for anyone in the business of enterprise search design and implementation. However, she admitted “we haven’t seen as large a response as we expected.”

This isn’t exactly surprising to everyone. “It’s coming” says our VP of Search Technologies, Michael McIntosh. “Corporations have an enormous investment in FAST ESP and it makes sense that they would be reluctant to move to something new until they absolutely have to.” That means, when their licenses expire.

“They will likely weigh the performance and support, or lack thereof, for the FAST ESP technical team with the timing of renewing a license and wait until they absolutely have to change to something else,” says McIntosh.

The purchase of Autonomy and the shift of HP from hardware to software could signal a recognition from Goliath HP the kind of growth opportunity enterprise search software offers, and that the “great shift” from FAST ESP to another search platform is very much on the horizon.

But as the clock continues to tick, companies using FAST ESP should be strategizing for migration now. “It’s an enormous undertaking to migrate an entire search solution from FAST to another platform. Designing a non-trivial search solution to fully meet your needs from scratch is hard enough on its own. If you are migrating an existing solution, it is very unlikely that you will find a one to one mapping of all of the features in a new search engine that you have come to depend upon with your existing implementation. Solving challenging issues like that requires both creativity and expertise to address your needs.” says McIntosh. If a need for migration is eminent, there will be a real need for expertise in the field of enterprise search on both proprietary and open source platforms, depending upon several factors like size, in house talent, and growth expectations.

How is your company preparing for the discontinuation of support of FAST ESP?  Need guidance?  Contact us for pointers, analysis, or architecture for a full migration.

Migration from FAST ESP to Lucene Solr

by Tamar Schanfeld

Download the presentation and see the video.

Michael McIntosh, Vice President of Enterprise Search Technologies at TNR, spoke at the Lucene Revolution conference in Boston, MA October 7-8, 2010. Michael reviewed the migration from Fast ESP to Lucene/Solr open source search. He discussed approaches to identifying core content areas of HTML documents such as Text-To-Tag Ratio Heuristics and Page Stereotype/Site Template Analysis, and reviewed specific use cases that we have encountered as search integration experts and discuss available tools.

TNR Global was a sponsor of Lucene Revolution. The conference gathered over 400 professionals from the enterprise search industry. We were happy to see so much interest in Lucene/Solr open source search, and get to know and learn from the folks who have done large scale implementations, including Twitter, LinkedIn, and eHarmony.  Not surprisingly, there was a lot of interest about migration from proprietory search systems to Solr, especially from FAST ESP due to Microsoft’s discontinuing FAST ESP support for Linux.  If you would like to learn more about how a migration from FAST ESP to Lucene Solr can benefit your company, contact us for a free consultation.